The beautiful capital to the 14th-century Vijayanagara Empire, Hampi’s forlorn ruins and interesting boulders are bewitching; a must-visit for those who take note of history and easily fall in love with nature. Filled with magnificent rocks and little vegetation (predominantly in the wet months), this UNESCO World Heritage Site attracts thousands of travellers each year.
Kanishk Gupta and five of his colleagues travelled to Hampi for two days, eager to get away from the city’s noise without falling into the trap of a clichéd holiday. “We did most of the touristy stuff, starting with Virupaksha – an important religious centre of the old city – before heading to Lotus Mahal, the palace of the queen,” Kanishk explains.
At a bit more than 350 km from Hyderabad, Hampi looked appropriate as it ticked all the boxes: far but not too far, close but not too close, and one of the most historical places in Karnataka. Situated on the southern bank of the Tungabhadra, the city also remains an essential religious hub, housing the temples of Virupaksha, Lakshmi Narasimha, Hemakuta Hill, Big Shivlinga and Vithala.
Lotus Mahal is a unique structure located among the rich architectural ruins of Hampi, a majestic ruin that forms part of the Zenana Enclosure, a secluded area reserved for the royal ladies of the Vijayanagara dynasty. The highlight of the palace is its exceptional and distinctive architecture, and it’s one of the few amazing things in Hampi that were left undamaged during the siege of the city.
The group then visited the elephant stables, where ceremonial pachyderms of the royal household were kept. A major tourist attraction, the building looks symmetric, with a row of domed chambers used to house the royal elephants. There are 11 of these tall, domed chambers; a few of them are connected to one another.
“We then headed to Vithala, which houses the world-famous stone chariot. A notable feature is the seven musical pillars, each of which emanates notes from the representative instruments when struck,” says Kanishk. The chariot he mentions is not an actual horse-drawn carriage, but rather a shrine built in the shape of one. The musical pillars, meanwhile, really do produce melodic notes. It’s said that there were about 56 of these, but that’s sadly been reduced to less than a dozen now.
“We wrapped up the tiring day with a visit to Tungabhadra Dam at sunset, which was one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen. A visit to the dam at sunset or sunrise is a must for anyone visiting Hampi. And on the second and final day of our trip, we decided to trek up to the Hanuman temple,” Kanishk reveals. “This is a steep, uneven walk across nearly 700 steps! I must say that after a very tiring trip, the sights from up there were simply memorable. Some notable craftsmanship works one must see are the idol of Narasimha, the lingam, and the Ganesh idol cut from a single piece of rock.”
The group stayed at Lemon Tree Hotel in Hospet, a clean and comfortable budget inn. For food, Kanishk recommends Mango Tree for its delicious menu and very hospitable staff. “You will be surprised to find a Punjabi restaurant in Hospet. The food at Just Punjabi was delicious, and we were taken care of very well. The owner went out of his way to find us transportation back to the hotel! Another good place for food is Funky Monkey, and a good place to relax with a cold beverage would be German Café.”
However, Kanishk still feels that the most memorable part of the trip was at Tungabhadra Dam at sunset. It was a feast for the eyes, especially to someone who loves nature. He also recommends that people to visit Hampi and check out all the historical ruins, but to choose their timing wisely as the weather can be punishing. “Hampi involves a lot of walking and being outdoors. Ergo, summer (now) is not the best time. The people are very nice and accommodating, and they tend to welcome tourists with open arms.”